Personal ambition

How to write a successful personal statement

It is that time of the year when many students sit down to write a personal statement for a graduate school, a semester abroad or exchange programs. Many schools ask similar questions in personal statement essays. They can ask to explain how the program will be beneficial to you or what makes you a good candidate for the program. It may be very tempting to write one personal statement and use it for all the schools and programs you are applying for but you should really write a separate essay for each. Writing a generic and vague personal statement will not make your application stand out. And, what is more important, make sure you answer the question.

Some writing experts define “you”, “why us”, and “creative” types of questions in personal statements. The first type asks students to tell about themselves. For instance, it can be “Describe the world you come from – for example, your family, community or school – and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.” Such personal statements allow the universities to get to know you better. However, they can be dangerous because you need to define the focus of your essay. Avoid retelling your resume and pick several unique qualities you possess. Remember that you need to talk about yourself in a way that demonstrate to the admissions committee which qualities make you a great candidate for the program and are suited to your future career.

“Why us” questions are focused. The university wants to know why you chose them among dozens of schools. Avoid vague statements and excessive praising or flattery. Rather, do your homework and learn as much as you can about the school, their programs, and faculty. What unique specializations do they offer and what significant publications have their faculty produced? Of course, write about what is relevant to the program you have selected.

Some universities and colleges would like to ask creative and “out of the box” questions. Stanford University, for example, asks applicants to write a letter to their future roommate. In this case try to show real you through telling about what made you chose it, how you made your career choice and what you know about the school and the program. With such creative essay questions, find an angle to tell your story but avoid potentially controversial subjects such as political or religious issues.

Finally, do not forget about time management. Allocate enough time to write your essay, carefully revise and proofread it. It is always good to have another pair of eyes on your personal statement and the Write Space consultants are ready to provide feedback and help you write better.

Adapted from:

Fulfillment Fund Sample Personal Statement Questions http://www.fulfillment.org/sites/default/files/forms/Sample%20Personal%20Statement%20Questions.pdf

Purdue Online Writing Lab Writing the Personal Statement https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/642/01/

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